Unlocking the Power of Renewable Energy Essay

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i need firt literature review for this thesis topic : The Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 allows countries to set their own emissions reduction targets in the form of “Nationally Determined Contributions” (NDCs) and is formally non-punitive, meaning that countries do not face any sanctions for non-compliance. The approach adopted in the Paris Agreement is often described as one acknowledging the primacy of domestic politics (Falkner 2016). This puts a special focus on the question of how characteristics of domestic political institutions shape the ambition and credibility of NDC pledges. Of major interest in this context is the effect of democracy, which is the topic of this Master thesis. The idea is to empirically investigate this question using two sources of data: (1) a unique dataset of views by climate policy experts (Victor et al. 2022) and (2) ratings on a range of climate policy performance indicators published by “Climate Action Tracker” (Boehm et al. 2022) and “Germanwatch” (Burck et al. 2022). To answer the research question using these data sets, it will be necessary to first add additional data from other sources (e.g., democracy indices) and then perform descriptive and econometric analyses. The basis for the empirical analysis should be a careful literature analysis that reviews both theoretical and empirical literature on the interplay between democracy and how a country performs with respect to environmental and climate policy.



The Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 marked a significant milestone in the global effort to combat climate change. One of its key features is the provision for countries to set their own emissions reduction targets through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Unlike previous climate agreements, the Paris Agreement adopts a formally non-punitive approach, meaning that countries do not face direct sanctions for non-compliance. This unique approach recognizes the primacy of domestic politics in climate action. It places a special focus on understanding how the characteristics of domestic political institutions influence the ambition and credibility of NDC pledges. In this context, this essay will review the existing literature on the interplay between democracy and a country’s environmental and climate policy performance. This literature review will lay the groundwork for an empirical investigation into the relationship between democracy and NDCs using data from climate policy experts, as well as climate policy performance indicators from “Climate Action Tracker”and “Germanwatch”.

The Primacy of Domestic Politics in Climate Agreements

The Paris Agreement’s departure from punitive measures for non-compliance represents a shift towards acknowledging the importance of domestic politics in addressing climate change. Falkner (2016) aptly characterizes this approach as one that recognizes the primacy of domestic politics in shaping a country’s climate policy. Under this framework, the onus is on individual nations to determine their emissions reduction targets and develop policies that align with their national circumstances and interests. Consequently, it becomes imperative to understand how domestic political institutions, particularly democratic systems, influence a country’s commitment to and effectiveness in achieving its climate goals.

Democracy and Environmental Policy

The impact of democracy on environmental and climate policy has been a subject of extensive scholarly investigation. Numerous studies have examined how democratic political systems affect a country’s environmental regulations, emissions reductions, and overall environmental performance. The thesis at hand focuses on the specific influence of democracy on NDC pledges within the context of the Paris Agreement.

Existing literature on democracy and environmental policy offers insights into the potential mechanisms through which democratic institutions influence climate action. Democracies often feature increased transparency, access to information, and participation of civil society in decision-making processes (Victor et al., 2022). These factors can create an environment where public pressure and accountability play a crucial role in shaping government policies, including those related to climate change. Moreover, democracies tend to be more responsive to changing public opinions and preferences, making it more likely that they will commit to ambitious climate goals.

However, the relationship between democracy and environmental policy is not unidirectional. Some scholars have argued that democracies, due to their need for short-term electoral support, may prioritize immediate economic concerns over long-term environmental sustainability (Victor et al., 2022). This tension between short-term political goals and long-term environmental objectives highlights the complexity of the democracy-environment relationship.

Empirical Investigation

To answer the research question regarding the influence of democracy on NDC pledges, empirical analysis is crucial. The study will rely on data from climate policy experts (Victor et al., 2022) and climate policy performance indicators from “Climate Action Tracker” (Boehm et al., 2022) and “Germanwatch” (Burck et al., 2022). However, to ensure a comprehensive examination of the democracy-environment nexus, additional data from sources such as democracy indices should be incorporated.

The empirical analysis will involve descriptive and econometric analyses. Descriptive analysis will provide a snapshot of the relationship between democracy and NDC ambition and credibility, while econometric analyses will employ statistical methods to identify and quantify the causal links between democracy and NDC pledges.

Additional Empirical Considerations

In addition to the empirical analyses mentioned earlier, several key variables should be taken into account to provide a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between democracy and NDC pledges within the Paris Agreement framework. These variables include not only democracy indices but also factors related to a country’s economic development, environmental policy history, and international cooperation efforts.

Economic Development: Economic conditions and development levels can significantly influence a country’s commitment to climate action. Developed democracies may have greater resources to invest in sustainable technologies and may prioritize environmental concerns due to higher levels of public awareness and wealth. On the other hand, emerging democracies or less developed countries may face economic constraints that impact their NDC pledges. The relationship between economic development, democracy, and NDC ambition warrants exploration.

Environmental Policy History: Historical data on a country’s environmental policies and practices can shed light on the evolution of its climate commitments. Examining the trajectory of environmental regulations, renewable energy adoption, and past international climate agreements that a country has ratified can provide valuable context for understanding its NDC pledges under the Paris Agreement.

International Cooperation: While the Paris Agreement emphasizes the role of domestic politics, international factors also play a crucial role in shaping climate commitments. Analyzing a country’s participation in international climate negotiations, alliances, and collaborations can help discern whether external pressures and agreements influence its NDC ambition. For instance, countries that are part of regional climate agreements or alliances may demonstrate stronger climate commitments.

Policy Instruments: Investigating the specific policy instruments that democracies employ to achieve their NDC targets can provide insights into the effectiveness of these mechanisms. For instance, do democracies rely more on market-based mechanisms, such as carbon pricing, or regulatory approaches to reduce emissions? Examining the choice of policy instruments can help assess the feasibility and sustainability of NDC pledges.

Public Opinion and Civil Society: Assessing public opinion and the role of civil society organizations in democracies can be crucial. Public support for climate action and the advocacy efforts of civil society groups can influence the formulation and implementation of NDCs. Understanding the relationship between democratic responsiveness to public concerns and climate ambition is an important aspect of the analysis.

Policy Implications and Future Research Directions

Understanding the intricate relationship between democracy and NDC pledges within the Paris Climate Agreement has profound policy implications. As nations continue to grapple with the challenges of climate change, this research can inform decision-makers and policymakers on how to enhance the effectiveness of climate action strategies.

Tailoring Climate Policies: The research findings can guide governments in tailoring their climate policies and NDCs to align with the characteristics of their democratic systems. For example, democracies with robust civil societies may find it advantageous to engage in collaborative policymaking processes, whereas democracies with more centralized decision-making structures may need to focus on building broad public support for climate action.

Public Engagement: Recognizing the impact of public opinion and civil society on climate commitments, democracies can prioritize public engagement and education on climate issues. Enhancing public awareness and support for climate policies can strengthen the credibility and sustainability of NDCs.

International Negotiations: The research can also inform international climate negotiations. By acknowledging the diversity of domestic political institutions and their influence on NDC pledges, negotiators can adopt a more nuanced approach to global climate agreements. This may involve providing tailored support and incentives to countries based on their political systems and capabilities.

Capacity Building: Supporting emerging democracies in their efforts to meet ambitious NDC targets may require capacity-building initiatives. International organizations and developed democracies can play a role in providing technical assistance, technology transfer, and financial support to countries facing challenges in achieving their climate goals.

Transparency and Accountability: Transparency and accountability mechanisms within democracies can be reinforced to ensure that governments remain committed to their NDCs. Civil society organizations and independent monitoring bodies can play a crucial role in holding governments accountable for their climate actions.

Future research directions in this field may include:

Comparative Analysis: Conducting a comparative analysis of NDC pledges across a diverse set of democracies, ranging from well-established democracies to emerging ones, to identify patterns and variations in climate commitments.

Longitudinal Studies: Examining how the influence of democracy on NDCs evolves over time as political landscapes change and climate priorities shift.

Qualitative Studies: Complementing quantitative analyses with qualitative studies to provide deeper insights into the decision-making processes, political dynamics, and stakeholder interactions that shape NDC pledges in democracies.

Subnational Analysis: Exploring the role of subnational governments and local democracy in climate action, as subnational entities often play a significant role in implementing NDCs.


In conclusion, the Paris Climate Agreement’s non-punitive approach and recognition of the primacy of domestic politics have made it imperative to investigate how domestic political institutions, particularly democracy, influence a country’s commitment to and effectiveness in achieving its NDC pledges. The existing literature on democracy and environmental policy provides valuable insights into potential mechanisms through which democratic systems may impact climate action. The upcoming empirical investigation, utilizing data from climate policy experts and performance indicators, will contribute to a deeper understanding of the role of democracy in shaping NDCs and, ultimately, global efforts to combat climate change. This research is critical in guiding policymakers and stakeholders toward more effective climate action strategies in a world increasingly characterized by democratic governance.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. What is climate change?
    • Climate change refers to long-term changes in the average weather patterns of the Earth, including alterations in temperature, precipitation, and wind patterns. It is largely driven by human activities, primarily the emission of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.
  2. What is the Paris Climate Agreement?
    • The Paris Climate Agreement is an international treaty adopted in 2015 during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris. Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It allows countries to set their own emissions reduction targets through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
  3. How does the Paris Climate Agreement work?
    • Countries that are parties to the agreement submit NDCs, which outline their individual climate action plans and emissions reduction targets. These targets are not legally binding, and the agreement takes a non-punitive approach, relying on transparency, reporting, and global cooperation to encourage countries to meet their commitments.
  4. What are greenhouse gases, and why are they a concern?
    • Greenhouse gases are gases in the Earth’s atmosphere that trap heat from the sun, leading to a warming effect known as the greenhouse effect. While they are essential for maintaining a habitable temperature on Earth, an excess of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), is causing global temperatures to rise, leading to climate change and its associated impacts.
  5. What role does democracy play in climate action?
    • Democracy can influence climate action in various ways. Democratic systems often facilitate transparency, public participation, and accountability, which can lead to more informed and ambitious climate policies. However, democracies may also face challenges in achieving long-term climate goals due to short-term electoral pressures.

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